A head injury is a traumatic injury to the head that may result in injury to soft tissue, bony structures, or the brain



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  • The nervous system of the human can be divided into two parts: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.

  • The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord; the peripheral nervous system consists of a network of nerve fibers, like cables, that transmit information to and from the body’s organs to and from the brain.

  • The central nervous system is well protected by bony structures; the brain is protected by the skull and the spinal cord is protected by the bones of the spinal column.

  • The central nervous system is also covered and protected by three layers of tissue called the meninges. The layers are called the dura mater, the arachnoid, and the pia mater.

  • A head injury is a traumatic injury to the head that may result in injury to soft tissue, bony structures, or the brain.

  • A traumatic brain injury is a severe head injury that can be a life threat or leave the patient with life-altering injuries.

  • The cervical, thoracic, and lumbar portions of the spinal column can be injured through compression such as in a fall, unnatural motions such as overextension from trauma, distraction such as from a hanging, or a combination of mechanisms. Each of these can also cause injury to the spinal cord encased in these regions of bone, causing permanent neurologic injury or death.

  • Motor vehicle crashes, direct blows, falls from heights, assault, and sports injuries are common causes of spinal injury. A patient who has experienced any of these events may have also sustained a head injury.

  • Treat the patient with a head injury according to three general principles that are designed to protect and maintain the critical functions of the central nervous system: establish an adequate airway, control bleeding, and reassess the patient’s baseline level of consciousness.

  • Treat the patient with a spinal injury by maintaining the airway while keeping the spine in proper alignment, assess respirations, and give supplemental oxygen.

  • In those situations in which your patient has problems with the ABCs or has other conditions for which you decide a rapid transport to the hospital is needed, rapid stabilization of the spine and quick loading into the ambulance may be indicated. Reduction of on-scene time and recognition of a critical patient increases the patient’s chances for survival or a reduction in the amount of irreversible damage.


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